Final preview: Murray-mania hits Wimbledon
Sun, 08 Jul 2012 3:51a.m.
Once again, Roger Federer will be playing in the Wimbledon final. For once, it will be against Andy Murray.
A few hours after Federer reached his modern-era record eighth final at the All England Club, Murray advanced to his first - and the first for a British man since Bunny Austin in 1938.
"There is a lot of pressure and stress around this time of year," said Murray, who beat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5. "I don't feel it when I'm on the practice court or when I'm just walking around. I try not to think about that stuff.
"But in the back of my mind, it's there."
Federer played Novak Djokovic under the roof on Centre Court, and looked a lot like the player who has won six titles on the very same grass. The 16-time Grand Slam champion defeated last year's winner 6-3, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, and is now one victory from equaling Pete Sampras' record of seven Wimbledon titles.
"I have one more match to go. I'm aware of that," said the 30-year-old Federer, who is 6-1 in Wimbledon finals and now 1-0 against Djokovic on grass. "Still, it's always nice beating someone like Novak, who has done so well here last year, the last couple years."
The victory improved Federer's semifinal record at the All England Club to 8-0. His only loss in the final came in 2008, when Rafael Nadal beat him 9-7 in the fifth set.
In the men's final, it will be the shotmaking that does the talking.
Federer will almost certainly have the psychological edge against Murray. Not only has he been at this stage seven times before, but he has beaten Murray in straight sets in two Grand Slam finals - at the 2008 U.S. Open and the 2010 Australian Open.
Murray is 0-3 in Grand Slam finals - 0-9 in sets in those three matches - and will also have the expectations of his country squarely on his shoulders. The British public has been waiting for a men's Wimbledon champion for 76 years, when Fred Perry won the last of his three titles in 1936.
"I'm going to need all their help… because it's a massive challenge to win against Roger in the final of a slam, at Wimbledon," Murray said. "I hope that all of the crowd is with me."
Only minutes after the win over Tsonga, British Prime Minister David Cameron called the victory "great news," perhaps piling even more pressure on Murray.
"I'll be watching the final… and like the rest of the country, will be getting right behind Andy Murray," Cameron said in a statement. "I wish him the best of luck."
While a victory for Murray will be celebrated all over Britain, sandwiched between the Queen's Jubilee last month and the upcoming London Olympics, Federer is playing for more history. A victory in his 24th Grand Slam final would again give him the No. 1 ranking, and equal Sampras' record of 286 weeks as the top-ranked player.
"There's a lot on the line for me in terms of winning here, the all-time Grand Slam record, world No. 1," Federer said. "I'm also going into that match with some pressure, but I'm excited about it. That's what I play for."
William Renshaw and Arthur Gore also played in eight Wimbledon finals but that was when the defending champion received a bye into the following year's title match. That rule was changed in 1922. Renshaw won seven titles and Gore three.
Despite Federer's chances for a history-making win, it could be the Murray factor that draws Queen Elizabeth II to the All England Club.
The queen came to Wimbledon in 2010 - the first time she had made the trip in 33 years. She skipped last year, but Murray in the final could be reason enough for a royal reappearance.
"I'm not sure if she'll be here," Murray said, "but it would be nice."
Murray has messed up a lot of people's weekend plans.
Murray's surprise victory in the Wimbledon semifinals, after losing at the same stage three years running, has left British royalty, politicians and celebrities - and millions of ordinary folk - scrambling for a spot to watch the showdown between the Scot and Federer
By powering past France's Tsonga to become the first British man to reach the final in 74 years, Murray took Britain's collective mind off the dreary weather and dismal economy and gave the country a new hero – at least for now.
"Finally!" was the one-word front page headline in Saturday's Daily Mirror. The Sun opted for the slightly longer: "Andy Finally."
The joy was tempered by surprise that Murray had really pulled it off - and a sense that it would be tempting fate to expect him to beat Federer and become the first British Wimbledon men's champion since Fred Perry in 1936.
Bunny Austin made the final two years later, but lost. Virginia Wade won the women's title in 1977.
It's not that the country's not happy. It's just surprised that one of the oldest traditions in sport - a Brit-free final at Britain's premier tennis tournament - is at an end.
"A nation unites in disbelief," said the front-page story in The Times newspaper, "for the impossible has taken place before our eyes."
The Daily Mail asked what many were thinking: "Now can he finish the job?"
Murray insisted that he can.
"It will be one of the biggest matches of my life," Murray said after the semifinal. "It's a great challenge. One where I'm probably not expected to win the match, but one that, you know, if I play well, I'm capable of winning."
The intense and taciturn Murray has always evoked mixed feelings in his homeland - the joke runs that he is British when he wins and Scottish when he loses.
Now that he's a winner, politicians in both London and Edinburgh are scrambling to support the tennis star.
Prime Minister David Cameron, who plans to attend the final, announced that a Scottish Saltire flag would fly alongside the Union Jack at 10 Downing
St. in support of Murray.
Cameron said it was "great news that we have our first homegrown men's finalist at Wimbledon for over 70 years, especially in this exciting Olympics year when the eyes of the world are on the U.K."
Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond - who wants Scotland to break away from Britain - also sent his congratulations.
"The whole of Scotland will be right behind Andy, and I'll be here in person to help cheer him on," Salmond said.
Murray will also have royal support at Centre Court in the form of the former Kate Middleton. St. James's Palace said the Duchess of Cambridge would attend the final.
Those not on the A-list can still get seats for the final - at a price. On eBay, bidding on a pair of tickets topped £2,500 pounds.
Can he do it? Murray has beaten Federer in eight of their 15 matches, though never in a Grand Slam final. Bookmaker Ladbrokes made Federer – aiming for his seventh Wimbledon title - the 1/2 favuorite, offering 13/8 odds on a Murray victory.
Whatever happens Sunday, Murray Mount, the fans' gathering place at Wimbledon, has finally lived up to its name. Many still think of it by its old identity, Henman Hill, after another British hopeful who never quite made the grade.
"It was a great atmosphere, it's my first year here and it was brilliant," said 24-year-old Thomas Lowry, who came from Ireland to watch the semifinal, and was considering coming back.
"From early on we thought he would win. I think he'll win the final as well. If it goes to a fourth or fifth set he'll definitely win."
What it was like the last time a Brit won Wimbledon
The last time a British man made it to the final of Wimbledon, the war -
World War II - hadn't yet begun. It was 1938 when Bunny Austin lost the championship in straight sets to Don Budge. And around the world:
- Bands of Nazis began roaming the streets of Germany and Austria, looting and burning synagogues, Jewish-owned stores and houses in a pogrom that became known as "Kristallnacht," or "Night of the Broken Glass."
- The Queen Elizabeth ocean liner was christened at Clydebank, Scotland, by the British queen consort for whom the ship was named.
- Heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis knocked out Max Schmeling at New York's Yankee Stadium.
- Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" opened on Broadway.
- British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain arrived in London after concluding the Munich agreement allowing Nazi Germany's annexation of the Sudetenland. His phrase "peace in our time" becomes synonymous with "appeasement." War breaks out one year later
- Groundbreaking ceremonies for the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.
- The Oscar for best picture went to "The Life of Emile Zola," directed by William Dieterle.
- Du Pont announced a name for its new synthetic yarn: "nylon."
- Pilot Douglas "Wrong-Way" Corrigan arrived in Ireland after leaving New York with the announced intention of flying to California.
- A hurricane struck parts of New York and New England, causing widespread damage and claiming some 700 lives.
- Orson Welles's radio dramatization of H. G. Wells' "War of the Worlds" airs.
- Seabiscuit beat War Admiral in match race of the century at Pimlico.
- Time Magazine's Man of the Year was Adolf Hitler.
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